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The Commodore Club: Vol. II

By Matthew Hawkins

November 05, 2018

By Matthew Hawkins

November 05, 2018

Wines For A Feast 

[The below was originally published for Commodore Wine Club members.  If interested in learning more about a subscription to this (or any other) wine club, email matthew@vanderbilt.wine, and he'll get back to you with more information.]

Thanks again for being a part of our newest wine club, and I hope that you enjoyed the first edition.  We've got two special wines for you this month, picked specifically for your Thanksgiving table.    Regardless of what, how (or if) you cook for your feast, I hope that these wines will take the meal to the next level.    

One of the wines is made by my favorite California duo - Arnot-Roberts - and made up of my first "favorite" grape, Gamay.  Their wines are highly allocated so I was stoked when we secured just enough to send them to your Thanksgiving table.  The second is a well-aged, one-of-a-kind expression of Savagnin from the Jura.  Pair the former with the afternoon supper, and the later with the cheese spread before the meal.  


The more I learn about wines - the more I taste, the more I explore new regions - the more I realize that there is no such thing as the perfect bottle.  There are only perfect settings.  I hope that as you and your community gather this Thanksgiving that you find a moment of peace, of togetherness.  Wine is best shared, and the best wine is only as good as its company.  

I hope you enjoy the wines, and please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or thoughts on the wines.  You can respond directly to this email. I’d love to hear from you. 
 

Cheers!
Matthew & The Vanderbilt Team 

Domaine de Saint Pierre Savignin de Voile 2010
Grape: Savagnin
Region: Jura
Appellation: Arbois Blanc

 At Domaine de Saint Pierre, flavor comes first, and the first step to intense, full, flavor is meticulous care in the vineyard. The family uses both organic and biodynamic practices, and from harvest to bottling, they never add any additives - no sulfur for instance- to the must or wine.  They also shoot for very low yields, which is essential in order to reach such a high level of wine. To achieve this, they practiced something called the “green harvest”. After the buds turn into fruit, but before the fruit changes from green to yellow(ish), they “harvest” a percentage of green grapes and toss them on the ground.  By culling unripe grapes, the winemaker is able to channel the vine’s energy into the remaining grapes. More energy, more depth, more flavor.

This wine is made from 100% Savagnin, one of the two white grapes in Arbois.   The vineyards are made up of grey marl with small limestone rocks mixed in.  The main thing to know about this wine is that it’s made, like sherry, in an oxidative style. If you don’t read anymore of this, do yourself a favor and buy a block of aged comte cheese to eat with this wine.  Do it. Do it. Do it.

Once the grapes are pressed, the must is pumped into an oak fermenter to undergo alcoholic fermentation. Then the wine is raked and pumped into 228 litre oak barrels filled just ¾ full. The wine is left to mature for a further three years.  This is where the unique and unmistakable quality of this wine develops. As the wine begins to oxidize, a film of yeast develops on top of the wine, which protects the wine against hard or otherwise extreme oxidation. The yeast film acts as protection against off flavors that could develop during that time. The wine is then bottled.

The palate remains light and vibrant despite the rich and nutty aromas on the nose.  I also found some fresh citrus (tangerine, lemon) and mineral (flint, granite) notes.  Smells like sherry, right? That’s the oxidation. The taste keeps on evolving, yeah?  That’s a reflection of stellar farming, smart wine making, and 3 years of age in the bottle.  

Arnot Roberts Gamay Noir 207
Grape: Gamay 
Region: California 
Appellation: El Dorado County 

Few month’s come with ready-set pairings like November.  Thanksgiving coming up? Time for Beaujolais. The region is both scorned (for marketing gimmicks like Beaujolais Nouveau, which by and large churns out swill) and lauded (for the ultimate expression(s) of Gamay in villages like Morgon and Fleurie), but personally, when Thanksgiving comes around I am thankful for Beaujolais.  It gave me my first “favorite” grape variety, and sparked an interest in Burgundy that spread both to the Loire and the cooler parts of California in search of highly aromatic, red-fruited wines that seem to evaporate on your tongue. This wine isn’t from Beaujolais, though when I close my eyes and take a sip I am somehow transported there.  

This is a Gamay from Northern California, made by two of my favorite domestic winemakers alive.  Nathan Roberts and Duncan Meyers have been making wine in Healdsburg since their first commercial vintage in 2002. They make upwards of 17 wines a year none of which breaks past 5,000 bottles.  From a purely “wine philosophy” perspective, there is a lot to learn from and admire in what these guys have done.

One of the many things they’ve done is move away from the (once thought inevitable) richness of California fruit towards wine focused on structure: their wines have a common thread of elevated acidity and very delicate tannin.  All yeasts are natural; reds are fermented in whole clusters; minimal SO2 is used; and there’s little or no fining or filtration. They pick at extremely low levels of potential alcohol and can have difficulty getting levels up to 12%.  

Leave the Beaujolais Nouveau back in the early 2000's where it belongs.  Happy Thanksgiving! 

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