Monthly Archives: November 2016

Califermentation 2016 – A California natural wine fair in San Francisco

Last Saturday I attended the Califermentation 2016 tasting at Terroir wine bar in San Francisco, where 20+ producers with a natural wine profile presented their wines.

My impressions were somewhat similar to what I have experienced previously in European tastings of natural wines. There are many wines with very strong personality, but quality is somewhat uneven. My overall impression were positive and it was a great introduction to the natural wine movement in California.

When evaluating the wines you have to respect that many of the producers have started their production the last few years and when it comes to quality and finess it is not fair to compare them with 3rd generation Burgundy producers that have 30 vintages with the same vineyards under their belt. Many of the producers at an event like this have only produced a couple of vintages and are still experimenting with new grapes, methods and vineyards.

An important difference compared with many natural wine makers I have met in Europe is that most producers here source the grapes from growers. I find this a bit problematic since everyone seems to agree that the most important work of winemaking is made in the vineyards. Still my impression is that many of the producers I met have a rather close cooperation with the growers and they have a good influence on the work in the vineyards.

Some other short observations from the event are:

  • There were less wines with brett then I expected and have experienced in similar events previously.
  • These wines were much more energetic and with better acidity than many of the wines I previously have tried from California.
  • There is a treasure of old vines in California. This was perhaps not news to me, but it was an important reminder that you should search beyond Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir when looking for quality wine in California.

I did not make extensive notes about each wine I tasted, but the following are som short comments per producer.

Black Trumpet Wine

Rather thick and intense Syrah wines with an abundance of dark berries, but also a good acidic backbone to ensure the wines do not get heavy.Black Trumpet Wine

Donkey & Goat Winery

A rather juicy Pinot Gris with a slight oxidative style and a rather broad citric acidity. They also presented a Syrah and Merlot wine, both with a rather dark fruit but also a very present and driving acidity.

Enfield Wine Co.

Their Chardonnay had a good juicy character on the nose and palate but there was a slightly oaky bitterness in the finish. The acidity had clear notes of grape fruit. They also presented a Pinot Noir with a rather energetic style dominated by the acidity and some young red fruit.

Frey Vineyards

I only tried their Chardonnay, which had an oxidative character and notes of grape and oranges on the palate. I would have preferred more acidity in this wine to give some tension.

Haarmeyer Wine Cellars

I only tried a Chenin blanc pétillant that had a very soft profile and lacking acidity.

Halcón Vineyards

Their Pinot Noir had some slight brett notes on the nose but on the palate it showed nice red fruit and a good acidity. I also tried their Grenache Mourvedre and Syrah mix and their Alturas which is only Syrah. The latter was my favourite, showing both bright fruit, an earthiness, minerals but also a very vibrant acidity. Very interesting wine.Halcón Vineyards

Hatton Daniels

I only tried their Rousanne and Marsanne blend that had a rather broad fruity nose with a fresh expression. On the palate it was more fruit driven and with a very soft acidity.

Hobo Wine Co.

Good and well balanced wines. Their Chardonnay had a racy acidity, good personality and showing nice fruit notes on the palate. The Pinot Noir was rather fruit driven but not without layers and complexity. They also presented a Syrah wine with fresh fruit and nice perfume on the nose.Hobo Wine Co.

Holman Cellars

They presented two white wines, one blend and one Grenache Blanc, both showing a rather fresh but dense fruit that was well balanced by the acidity. The Grenache Blanc had some oak notes on the palate. The red wines were based on Merlot and Primitivo (zinfandel) and both had a rather energetic and driving acidity but also a pure bright fruit.Holman Cellars

Inconnu Wine

Their wines had a profile with rather bright young fruit and a vibrant acidity. There where also some rather green notes in the Cabernet Franc and some green peppers in the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Kirchhoff Wines

They offered a fresh and mouthwatering Albarino wine and two versions of their Barbera, one with and one without SO2 added. The Barberas had great fruit and acidity on the palate but a slight brettiness on the nose. They also had a blend of Merlot, Barbera and Petite Sirah that was rather dense and had some notes of ink.Kirchhoff Wines

Les Lunes & Populis

I only tried their Chardonnay and the Rose based on Carignan. My favourite was the Chardonnay that had a rather complex expression with, racy acidity, minerals and fresh mouthwatering fruit notes. Very charming wine. The Rose also had a fresh expression and with a slight strawberry note on the palate.

Methode Sauvage Wine Co.

This producer presented wines base on the Loire grapes Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. I was impressed by their wines that had good balance and precision but also personality. There was a clear connection with the wines from Loire. Methode Sauvage Wine Co.

Old World Winery

A producer based in Russian River Valley where they own and cultivate their vineyards themselves. Their wines showed great intensity on the fruit and acidity. My favourite was their Syrah wine named Flow. It had dark and dense fruit but also a precise acidity.Old World Winery

Ruth Lewandowski Wines

They presented a white Grenache Gris from old vines and with a oxidative style. This wine had a strong personality and for me it would require some food. They also presented a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon with a rather dense and dark fruit.

The Scholium Project

Presented two well balanced wines from very old vines of Cinsault and Zinfandel. I was surprised to notice that the Zinfandel was my favourite, showing a rather dense fruit core that was carried well by the acidity, resulting in a powerful yet fresh wine.The Scholium Project

Ser Winery

Presented a fresh and forward Chardonnay dominated by its acidity, and two red wines, one Syrah and one Cabernet Pfeffer, also with an energetic acidity but also with bright fruit notes.

Stirm Wine Co.

This producer focus on Riesling wines and presented three wines from 2015 and one 2014 for comparison. I was impressed by their wines that showed great fruit notes, good personality and a rather careful but good acidity. I was also happy not to find a dominance of petroleum notes which I feared from a warm region like California.

Wine tasting at Califermentation 2016

Unturned Stone Productions

http://www.unturnedstonewine.comUnturned Stone Productions

Presented two vintages of a wine based on a Bordeaux blend. Both wines had a rather youthful character and would probably integrate better with time. There are green paprika, cedar, black fruit, but also a racy acidity and some grippy tannins. These wines and the producer will be interesting to follow.

Vinca Minor

Presenting one Carignan and two Cabernet Sauvignon wines. I liked the two Cabernet Sauvignon wines very much and they showed a rather dense concentration on the fruit, some green paprika and a mouthwatering acidic expression.Vinca Minor

There were a few more producers represented but unfortunately I did not get to taste them this time.

Finally I would also like to say thanks to the Califermentation team and Terroir for a great tasting.

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Weingut Wittmann – Stellar performance in 2015

In July we visited Weingut Wittmann and was guided both in the vineyards and in the cellar by the Cellarmaster Georg Rieser. We also had the chance to taste a large range of their wines.

We spent quite some time visiting their different vineyards. Georg got very en gaged when we talked about how they work in the vineyards to produce the best possible grapes. He pointed out that this is where the great wines are created, not in the cellar.

weingut wittmann vineyard

Our daughter Iva showed great enthusiasm during the visit:)

Weingut Wittman perform green harvest but the timing and the amount removed depends on the vintage. In a cold vintage they do an early green harvest to ensure faster maturation of the grapes. Another important task in the vineyard is the removal of leaves around the grapes. They need to avoid getting grapes wet, since this could result in botrytis, but they also want to reduce the amount of sun directly on the grapes. Therefore they cut more on the side that has morning sun, and less on the afternoon side since this is more intense. They perform several harvests per vineyard to ensure clusters/berries are picked at optimal ripeness.

Weingut Wittman has been biodynamic since 2004 but before that they had a long history of organic viticulture that started in 1980. By 1990 they where 100% organic.

weingut wittmann vineyardIn the cellar they have some beautiful large oak casks that are over 100 years old. Some of the Großes Gewächs (GG) wines are stored in the old casks but some are in the stainless steel vats. Georg also comments on the importance of maintenance of the old wooden vats to ensure freshness. They do have some barrique size barrels but these are used for red wine and for some Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. New wood barrels are never used for the Riesling wines since they do not want any wood notes on the Riesling.

Since some years back they use a sorting table for selection before the grapes are pressed. This is one more initiative to heighten the level of quality in the fruit that goes into the wines. Gravity is used as much as possible instead of pumping when moving the must from pressing to fermentation and then on to storage. As Georg puts it: “The wine has to be handled gently”.

Wittman uses natural yeast and spontaneous fermentation in most cases, but sometimes they need to add some yeast to ensure the process finishes in time. If possible they do not want the wine to be fermenting during the winter. In colder vintages with less opulent fruit they use longer maceration times to add depth to the wines.

They vinify different harvests and plots separately and then later make blends based on the quality and personality of the wine and vintage. They have a tasting with more than 90 different wines where the staff and the family takes part, and based on the impressions and opinions they decide on a blend for the vintage. This means that there are no pre-decided vineyard sections for each type of wine.

The wines we tasted at Weingut Wittmann

2015 Wittmann Riesling trocken

Slim nose with yellow apples and tropical fruit. Fresh citric acidity with minerals and a grippy and almost a bit salty expression.

This is an energetic and precise wine and a very good entry level Riesling.


2015 Wittmann Niersteiner Riesling trocken

This is an Ortswein from vineyards with mainly red slate, situated close to the Rhein.

Ripe notes of yellow apples, apricot, an abundance of tropical fruit but also some fresh young green apples. Rather broad acidity but with good structure and grip.

The wine has a generous and juicy expression.



2015 Wittmann Westhofener Riesling trocken

This is an Ortswein from vineyards with mainly limestone.

Tight fresh fruit nose with apples, pears and some slight stone fruit.  Very pure and precise acidity that also has a juicy expression.

Mouthwatering and well balanced wine.

91weingut wittmann vineyard

2014 Wittmann Westhofener Riesling trocken

Rather ripe tropical fruit notes, apples and some petroleum. Juicy but not very precise acidity that stays in a rather long finish.  A rather generous and opulent wine.


2015 Wittmann Westhofener Aulerde Riesling Großes Gewächs

The soil in Aulerde has less limestone than Kirchspiel and Morstein.

Rather broad and open nose showing tropical fruits like apricot and lychee. The acidity is juicy and stays in a long finish.

This wine has a very generous expression and good structure.


weingut wittmann vineyard

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Kirchspiel Riesling Großes Gewächs

Compared with Morstein, the Kirchspiel wines are usually more open and ready to drink early and is often showing notes of grapefruit. The soil is similar to Morstein.
Very fresh nose with white stone fruit, lots of lychee and some young apricot and pears.

The acidity is amazing with a very energetic and firm expression and an abundance of minerals. Some fresh fruit notes balance the acidity well.

At the moment the wine is slightly dominated by the acidity but it should develop fantastically with time. A great wine with fantastic potential.


2015 Wittmann Westhofener Morstein Riesling Großes Gewächs

The wines from Morstein usually has a lot of citrus and acidity. The soil has clayish marl and limestone on the upper layer and more limestone in the subsoil.
There are multiple layers of fruit on this dense and concentrated nose, but it never gets overly dominant. We also find some very slight flint and yeast notes and white flowers.

Juicy and mouthwatering acidity with a grippy expression showing both lime fruit and lemon. Again the fruit is dense and complemented by some herbal notes.

The wine already has a good balance between the acidity and the fruit and it manages to combine generosity with elegance. A truly fantastic wine.


2014 Wittmann Weissburgunder Weißer Burgunder Reserve

Aged in new oak barrels of 600l.

Fresh young apricot dominated a rather opulent nose. There are also oak notes on both the nose and palate but they do not get dominant. Good acidic bite and minerals on the palate where we also find some nice fresh fruit.

This is a rich and charming Pinot Blanc.


2014 Wittmann Chardonnay Reserve Trocken

Rather slim palate with tropical fruit and som notes of oak.

The wine has a rather energetic acidity and juicy pineapple notes on the palate. Will require some more time to find the right balance.


2015 Wittmann Riesling Auslese

Residual suger of 120.

Rather slim on both nose and palate with young tropical fruit and honey, combined with a rather juicy lime acidity.

Fresh Auslese with good precision, but rather one-dimensional.


2015 Wittmann Westhofener Morstein Riesling Auslese

Residual suger of 125.

Lots of young stone fruit and pineapple combined with honey and floral notes.

Energetic Auslese with a grippy acidity and a good mineral structure.  Should develop fantastically with time


2015 Wittmann Westhofener Morstein Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel

A rather spicy nose with stone fruit, herbs, apricot, bees wax, white flowers and lime.

Dense and multi layered palate with similar notes as on the palate but also a fresh acidity and mineral structure.

Fantastic Auslese that should be kept in storage for a long time.


Overall impressions of Weingut Wittmann in 2015

We were very impressed with Wittman’s wines from the 2015 vintage. They have a complexity and depth in combination with a precise and very energetic acidity. The Kirchspiel and Morstein GG wines are truly amazing and we would recommend anyone to stock up on these, but also the other wines keep a very high quality level.

One last note

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Pinot Noir from three different countries

Some months ago we had a small Pinot Noir tasting including four wines from three different countries. The lineup included wines from New Zealand (Ata Rangi), two from classic Burgundy (Domaine Marquis d’Angerville, Louis Jadot) and Germany (Enderle & Moll). It was a focus on outstanding classic vintage of 2010, but in the german case we didn’t have one so here (unfairly) a 2014 was added to the bunch. At the end of the evening Domaine Marquis d’Angerville stod as a clear winner, but we where also reminded of how different expressions you can get from the Pinot Noir grape.

Tasting notes for the wines

Pinot Noir from Ata Rangi, Domaine Marquis d'Angerville, Enderle & Moll, Louis Jadot

2010 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir

A rather herbal expression on the nose, but also with peppers, alcohol, orange peel, under vegetation, blackberries and some oak.
Similar on the palate where the wine is rather heavy for a Pinot Noir and there is an oak bitterness to the finish.


2010 Domaine Marquis d’Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Champans

Dense and rather dark fruit with blueberries, blackberries, oil paint and liquorice on the nose. These notes are then complemented with iron, dark minerals, floral notes and hints of marzipan on the palate. Good acidity that carries the rather dense palate and ensure a fresh and energetic expression.
The wine has great balance and good complexity.


2014 Enderle & Moll Pinot Noir Buntsandstein

Extremely floral and full of raspberries but also some conserved cherries and a very slight barnyard smell. Mouthwatering fresh raspberries on the palate combined with a precise but careful acidity with a slight harshness in the finish. There is also a fine grained tannic structure.
This is a forward and expressive wine with lots of energy, but unfortunately it is also rather one dimensional. Great wine for the summer evenings.


2010 Louis Jadot Beaune 1er Cru Theurons

There are rather sweet raspberry notes on the palate in the beginning but after a few hours there are also notes of darker fruit.
The body is rather slim, with a fresh acidic expression.