We are a wine shop that explores the best of both worlds with retail shopping and a walk-in tasting room open Tuesday through Sunday. Our tasting room selections change monthly and always focus on different regions. The ever-changing menu allows our guests to constantly explore and discover something new. This month we are exploring Alsace, France and the Maule Valley in Chile. Order a flight of all four wines or simply stop by, shop, and enjoy a glass!
Alsace lies on the northeastern edge of France, nestled between the Vosges Mountains and the Rhine River. This picturesque wine region is dotted with cobblestone villages straight out of a fairytale but with a much less romantic past. Alsace sits directly on France’s border with Germany and has traded hands between France and Germany several times throughout its history. In fact, Alsace was a front line in World War I, leaving some of the region's greatest terroirs still scattered with landmines. With its sorted past, there is a tangible cultural tension felt in the food, architecture, and even the wine.
Alsace is a cool, continental climate with warm summers, cold winters and large temperature swings between day and night, perfect for late ripening grapes like Riesling. The Vosges mountains provide a rain shadow for the region, limiting precipitation and putting adequate stress on vines. Just like some of the premier vineyards in Germany, the best sites of Alsace lie on South facing slopes, benefiting from more sun exposure. There are 13 soil types in Alsace ranging from lighter, well-draining granite and sandstone to denser clay-rich limestone and marl. Soils can either increase the effects of heat and drought or temper them which is important in a dryer growing region that can have large temperature swings from day to night. Growers take this into great consideration when cultivating specific grapes.
At first glance at the wines, you will notice a long and elegant bottle shape similar German and Austrian wines. Known as the Alsatian bottle, it was originally designed because the Rhine River was smooth sailing, and the bottles did not need to be as robust as other wine regions with much more strenuous trade routes. Alsatian gastronomy is also heavily influenced by German food traditions like pork-centric dishes often partnered with sauerkraut. When compared to Germany, there are also many familiar grapes as 90% of vineyard plantings are white varietals, with Riesling leading the charge. Alsatian Riesling is known to be distinctively dry in style with pronounced, mouthwatering acidity. Pinot Gris is often rich, layered and aromatic with notes of meyer lemon, green apple, white flowers and sometimes honey and dried fruits. The primary red varietal, Pinot Noir often comes off lighter-bodied with soft tannins and a charming rustic quality. Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, Sylvaner, and Auxxerious make up a few of the other regional white grapes you may encounter.
Unlike other French regions that label based on the appellation, Alsatian wines are typically labeled by grape variety. By law, the wine must contain 100% of the stated varietal on the label. Blending does occur, and those wines are labeled ‘Edelzwicker’, ‘Gentil’, or often given a unique name. As you may expect from any cool region, sparkling wine is a thing here as well. Cremant d’Alsace is sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne method and makes up nearly a quarter of the annual wine production from the region! Finally, Alsace also contains 51 Grand Cru sites. These Grand Cru wines are single varietal and make up 4% of total wine production.
We are focusing the Alsace flight on a single producer this month. Family owned since 1640, Matthieu and Marie Boesch are now the 11th generation in charge of Domaine Léon Boesch. Certified in both organic and biodynamic farming, they and are determined to make expressive and balanced wines that highlight the unique qualities in each of their vineyard sites. We are pouring one of their dry Rieslings as well as a Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Cremant. We are thrilled to share this producer with you, and hope you enjoy the purity and sense of place that each of their wines convey.
A southern subappellation to the larger Central Valley, Valle del Maule is home to some of the first vines planted in Chile dating back as early as the 1500s during Spanish colonization. These first plantings included grapes like Pais, Muscatel, Torontel and Albilho. A few centuries later, the grapes of Bordeaux began to arrive. During the late 19th century, while Europe was being ravaged by the vine-killing aphid phylloxera, Chile remained untouched and exports to Europe surged. However, with the outbreak of World War I across Europe and political instability at home, the Chilean wine industry began to take a hit. Fast forward to the 1980s, many wineries across Chile had resorted to mass production with little to no quality control. As international investment started to come back in some of the more northerly parts of the Central Valley this began to change. At the time, the high-yield farming of the Maule Valley kept this region at a lower quality level. However, in the last 20 years, the tide has begun to turn and winemakers in the Maule River Valley have begun veering towards quality over quantity.
The Valley lines the Maule River which runs east to west from the Andes Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. This River is not only one of the most important rivers of Chile but it also provides the valley with fertile granite, red clay, loam, gravel and volcanic soils. Some vineyards sit on hillsides while others are planted along the valley floors, which are home to some of the valley’s highest yielding vineyards. Due to the fertility of the valley floor, the higher elevation sites tend to produce higher quality and more distinctive wines. Dry farming is also common practice to allow for vine stress leading to more concentrated fruit. Maule Valley has a slightly cooler climate and higher annual rainfall than the other top wine growing regions of Chile’s Central Valley. Add that to the intensity of the sun during the day with cool nights and you get a prolonged growing season which helps lead to a balanced ripeness and acidity in the grapes grown here.
Like many new world wine regions, Chilean wine laws focus on the geographical origin of the grapes of which 85% must be from the region it is labeled. Enacted in the mid-nineties, the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture established a four-tiered denomination of origin labeling system, or DOs, for viticulture. The grapes associated most with Maule Valley DO are Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Carmenere, Merlot, Pais, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Even though the region is predominantly known for its reds, the cooler climate and prolonged growing season bode well for white grapes like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
The flight starts with a high elevation single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from vines planted in 1993 by the wine maker himself. Next, a Pais-Carinena (Carignan) Blanc from a producer focused on reviving old vines and regenerative farming. A textbook Carmenere is next in line, followed by a juicy Cabernet Sauvignon blended with a touch of Syrah.
Maule Valley is on the rebound from its recent history of overproduction and bulk wine. Quality is surging! Come see for yourself this month, enjoy a new world flight and be sure to ask about some of the other bottles we have from Maule Valley on our shelves!
Maule Valley Flight
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We now host curated tastings for groups of two to ten people. Our tastings are a great way to explore wines that are new to you or indulge in some of your favorite regions. Whether you are looking to learn or to simply relax, our team has you covered.