Tag Archives: Natural wine

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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Clos du Tue-Boeuf – A natural wine legend from Loire

Thierry Puzelat and his brother Jean-Marie have for a long time been leading figures in the natural wine making scene in Loire. They have also received great acknowledgements for their wines that have been served in some of the top restaurants in the world, including Noma.

A discussion with Thierry is both entertaining and educational, since he is a very open and direct person with a fantastic knowledge and experience of wine making. He also has a great drive for trying new things and experimenting. A visit to the Domaine is also an excellent opportunity to try a huge variety of different grapes.

One of the wines we tried came from a quite recent experiment with Amfora vats where Thierry vinified Pinot Noir grapes. Just like wooden vats, the Amfora vats breathes and lets through some air which affects the maturation process. For the first batch vinified with this method he used extremely long maceration times, approximately 5 months, which has resulted in a quite harsh and very tannic wine. In the next vintage the maceration times will be reduced to find more balance and elegance.

Thierry Puzelat

Thierry and Jean-Marie Puzelat today control 16 hectars of which they own 10 hectars in Cheverny and rent another 6 hectars in Touraine. In these vineyards they grow a wide variety of grapes, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gamay, Côt (Malbec), Pinot Noir, but also more local and less famous grapes like Menu Pineau.

The vineyards are organically grown and they have tried biodynamic methods, but because of limited effects in the output, today the only use biodynamic methods selectively. Thierry also told us about an experiment where they harvested grapes at different days, following recommendations from the Lunar calendar, to see if there was a difference in the end results. When trying the wines they could not notice a clear difference, but Thierry also points out that this was a quite small experiment.

The wines we tasted


Le P’tit Blanc du Tue-Boeuf 2013

This is a Sauvignon blanc where they have added 25 mg of sulfur and filtered the wine.

A very flourish nose with some apple and other fruit in the background. Very fresh and pure expression. The taste follows a similar style and is complemented by a clear and precise acidity.

Not the most complex wine but it has precision and energy.


Le Brin de Chevre 2013

Menu Pineau from 85 year old vines. The wine has aged one year in cask, on the lees, and no sulfur has been used.

Very generous nose with quite ripe fruit, mainly pears and some citric notes but also clear notes of flint and minerals. The same notes are also carried over into the taste where some hints of wood also can be found. The acidity is quite high.

This is a quite fleshy wine with a strong personality and lots of grip.


Le Buisson Pouilleux 2013

Same process as the Le P’tit Blanc du Tue-Boeuf but using older vines.

Starts off with quite classical Sauvignon blanc notes but not overpowered with nettles. Nice juicy fruit, mainly apples but also quite a lot of lime and other citric fruit. The taste is very similar and is backed up with a precise acidity and some mineral notes. This is a rather fleshy wine for a Sauvignon blanc.

A fantastic Sauvignon blanc that feels typical for the region where we have tried several other Sauvignon blanc that are rather fleshy and citric.


Rouillon 2013

Named after the vineyard Rouillon and contains a mix of grapes, which changes depending on vintage. This vintage is Pinot Noir and Gamay, approximately 50% each. The vineyard has chalky soil, which gives high acidity.

We find lots of raspberries and young red fruit and perfume in this beautiful and quite expressive nose. The same fruit is found on the palate but it gets a bit darker and there is also an earthiness to it. The acidity is quite powerful, and there are good tannins that provide backbone and structure.

The wine is not perfectly balanced at the moment since the acidity dominates to a great extent. Still it is a generous wine with good personality.


La Gravotte 2013

Pinot noir from soils of clay and flint.

Quite fruity nose with lots of raspberries, strawberries and some hints of wood glue.
The wine is surprisingly tannic but otherwise has some burgundic notes with both elegance and complexity.

We find some sweetness in the relatively short finish.


La Caillère 2013

Pinot noir from soil of clay, sand and gravel, three weeks of maceration and on lees until bottling.

Quite dark colour for a Pinot noir. The wine has a nose with earthy notes but also some red fruit. We find raspberries (almost a bit sour, but not unpleasant), game and iron. On the palate the fruit takes a step forward, and is complemented with some herbs and mint. Again rather earthy.

The finish is surprisingly short considering the quite expressive nose and palate. This is a generous Pinot noir with lots of character.


Le Guerrerie 2013

2/3 Côt and 1/3 Gamay, all from the same vineyard.

This wine has a great nose with dense notes of dark and red fruit. On the palate blueberries and cherries dominate this very fruity palate, which also has a good and slightly sandy tannic structure.

This wine is more about generosity and is very easy to enjoy.



The wines from Clos du Tue-Boeuf are in general rather expressive, fleshy and with strong personality. They contain quite a lot of fruit, which is complemented by both a good acidity and some earthy notes for the red. These are wines that pair well with food.

For someone who likes Burgundy wines it is also interesting to follow their development with the Pinot noir wines.