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NOVEMBER 2022/ THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE PLACE BEHIND THE WINE

INTRO

Someone or something was here before us. We may be doing our thing (growing grapes! making wine! drinking wine!) here and now in all its colorful glory, but if we were to rewind the big history clock, often it all disappears as the layers of past actions appear and take on the life they once lived. The people who came before walked the same ground , breathed, lived, and their existence can still be known and hold meaning. 
It is especially at this time of harvest, abundance, and gathering that reminds us of the relationship we have to our planet.  And through that relationship, we stay connected to all those who came before us who explored, cared for, and laid the groundwork for where we are today.  Most of their stories are unknown, and in many cases, they have been eliminated from our collective consciousness through acts of discrimination.  This is why it is of the utmost importance that we act like roots and dig dig dig to find the stories of who was here before the vines.  
To be in the present is to be open to both the past and future. When we learn about what came before, what may have led to the present, this can inform our experience of where we are now. The wines in this month's Club Caravan let geographical history lead the way, in order to demonstrate the fluid nature of our experience here on earth.  We own nothing. We keep nothing. So, it is important to see the reach of time as a way to expand our appreciation and enjoyment of the present moment, the here and the now..
This month has two sets of wine presented and each member could have gotten a different combination.  Therefore, listed below are all wines used throughout this tasting.

 

 

 


WINE 1

Kante, Chardonnay 2018
Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

 

THE PEOPLE
This is an interesting spot geographically as it holds the cross-over of several distinct cultures. We have the overlap of Italian, Slovenian & Croatian culture, along with the historic powers of the Venetians and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 
In terms of prehistory, evidence has been found of humans existing in what is now Friuli as far back as the Lower-Paleolithic Era (or Old Stone Age), which spans the time from around 3,000,000 years ago to 300,000 years ago. The Karst Caves that are common in the area hold remains of bones, stone tools and clay vessels, providing further evidence of ancient inhabitants.
There have been several border shifts throughout recent history that lead to an overlapping of language, culture and tradition. This area is known for its three major shipping harbors that have greatly influenced its history: Aquileia, Trieste, and Venice.   It is hard to remember that up until 1848 Italy was a cluster of small countries which gives each area some true distinction that we don’t experience as much with the United states.  The Friuli- Venezia region to this day speaks Friuli as well as Italian (officially), German, and Slovene.  However, Friuli is replaced by the dialects Venetian and Triestine even within the region.  The fact that these languages are still spoken demonstrates a deep pride in their identity  that has existed for thousands of years.  These are people who are still deeply connected to their ancestors through the geography and tradition of their land.  And because wine making and sea travel are both such dominant characteristics of this region, we can also think of the Friuli- Venizia Giulia as spreading their knowledge, customs, and traditions along with their exports throughout Southern Europe and Northern Africa.   
THE PLACE
The Carso district of southeastern Friuli, just outside of Trieste, is a unique microclimate sandwiched between the Adriatic Sea to the south, the Alps to the north, the low hills of Collio to the west, and the Balkan peninsula to the east. 
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is a wine region in North Eastern Italy. The specific area of Carso, where the grapes are grown and this wine is made, sits on the Istrian Peninsula bordering Slovenia between the Isonzo River and the city of Trieste. The name Carso comes from the word karst, which is a landscape formed by water carving through rock. This leads the area to be filled with several underground caves. This area would normally be inhospitable to most agriculture. However, the ingenuity of the farmers and growers has led to the years long tradition of bringing iron-rich soil up from the caves and laying it over top soil that's been brought in from Trieste. Now a rich base layer of soil has been created that will hold moisture and provide sufficient nutrients for the vines.
THE WINE
Edi Kante took over the winemaking at his family's vineyards in the early 1980s. He experimented for many years in order to find his style and has landed on making wines that are clean, precise, ageworthy (including his whites), and are very welcome at the table with food. This month's Kante Chardonnay has been aged for 12 months in neutral oak barrels. Chardonnay loves an oak barrel as it introduces more oxygen into the wine as it rests. (Remember: neutral oak does not impart "oaky" flavors, it's all about breathability) This can soften the wine and change its flavor.  It is then aged an additional 6 months in stainless steel barrels on the lees. Edi's technique in the cellar allows for the chardonnay to be full and expressive, but also poised and precise. The limestone soil adds to this linear quality of mouth-feel and flavor. All farming and winemaking practices are sustainable and used in order to let the wine express its terroir. As you sip, picture yourself in a rugged rocky landscape filled with caves and the echoes of constant cultural crossover throughout millions of years.

 

 

WINE 2

Liten Buffel, Pinot Noir "Perfetto Vineyard" 2018
USA, New York State, Niagara Escarpment
 
THE PEOPLE
One of the reasons Liten Buffel winery was started in this location of New York is because land was cheap and there was plenty of it available. That said, there is a history of inhabitants long before these winemakers. The earliest settlers in the Niagara area were the Mound builders, native people who traveled here from the Ohio Valley and settled in the Niagara region around 100 AD. However, we can go as far back as 7,000 B.C.E. and there were nomadic Paleo-Indians that migrated here after the disappearance of the Pleistocene Glaciers. By 1400 C.E. Neutral Indians occupied the area relying on fishing, hunting and agriculture to survive. It is from their word, Onghiara, describing the waters flowing between Lakes Erie and Ontario, that Niagara is derived. The Iroquois defeated the Neutrals in the mid-1600s. Later Mississauga natives settled on the Canadian bank of the Niagara River while Senecas settled on the American bank.
THE PLACE
The region is named for the Niagara Escarpment landform. This is a free-draining limestone ridge that runs for more than 650 miles through Ontario, Michigan and Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, this escarpment is found in the Wisconsin Ledge AVA (we'll have to find some wines from there for another tasting!). Created in 2005, the Niagara Escarpment AVA is essentially a continuation of Ontario's Niagara Peninsula on the Western side of the falls in Canada. Liten Buffel’s production facility is located in western New York in Middleport, about an hour north of Buffalo. The nearness of Lake Ontario and its temperature-moderating effect helps to make this area hospitable to grape growing. During the late-summer ripening period, hot air rises off the lake, creating an off-shore breeze by drawing cooler air from the land through the vineyards. This then circulates the warm air back onto the land to aid in further ripening. Overall the area is quite cold, and if the vines are too close to the lake, or on the Huron Palins to the south, frost is a constant danger.
THE WINE
Liten Buffel is a very small winery in the Niagara Escarpment producing about 1,000 cases per year. Patrick Vaughn, the winemaker, is using no added sulfites or chemicals in the winery. He believes in letting the grapes be as expressive as they want to be. He crushes the grape by foot. There is some carbonic maceration that occurs naturally in some uncrushed clusters that are added. (This creates an intense juiciness at the core of the wine's flavors.) He then lets the juice sit on the skins and ferment for 4 months before moving the juice into old wooden barrels for 12 months. During that time he uses what is called "batonnage" which is the stirring of the lees to provide a sense of freshness and texture to the finished product. There is a somewhat oxidative quality to the wine that can make it come off as pretty wild at first, especially for Pinot Noir. (Needless to say, this is not Burgundy, nor is it trying to be) Spend some time with this bottle. Take it slow. Appreciate its vibrant and oddly magnetic character.

 

 

WINE 3

Unico Zelo, Alluvium 2021
AUSTRALIA, South Australia, Adelaide Hills, Birdwood

  

THE PEOPLE
The Adelaide Hills are the traditional lands and waters of the Peramangk and Kaurna peoples. The area where these vines grow today has been carefully managed by Aboriginal peoples for millenia. Known  for their  “fire stick farming” (the deliberating lighting of fires to regenerate the soil), the Kaurna bands turned forests into grasslands which fed emus and kangaroos.  Their nomadic hunter gatherer culture  kept these areas in great health as they were systematically tended to according to season. The Aboriginal people we now know as the Peramangk and Kaurna had significant trade routes with other people from the Lake Alexandrina area. They traded redgum bark sheets for canoes and also firemaking "kits" with others as far away as Lake Victoria in New South Wales.
In the 1850s, when European settlements and agriculture began to occupy and take over their traditional lands and food routes, the Peramangk and Kaurna people began to struggle and were displaced. Some of the original place names in the Adelaide Hills continue to survive: Brukunga, Uraidla, Gumeracha, Onkaparinga, Echunga, and Cudlee Creek.   Aboriginal artwork has a 50,000 year old history which reveals mythology, tradition, and everyday life.  The Peramangk often painted dreams and three headed serpents that held human features, as well as activities like hunting, cooking, and ceremonies.  They were steeped in a complicated tradition of rituals and rules, but their paintings remain simple.  Sadly, like many indigenous cultures, there was not careful  preservation of their history, therefore  much is unknown.  The 1889 Paris Exhibition created an interest in indigenous cultures which brought many Kaurna artifacts to Paris for viewing.  Unfortunately, these objects such as spears, boomerangs, and traditional objects were never returned to Australia as Kaurna culture was no longer practiced.  
THE PLACE
The wine region of South Australia is equivalent to California in terms of wine production for its country. South Australia produces half of the nation's wine grapes and is the seat of its important wine and vine research organizations. There are 18 different wine regions within the state of South Australia (the Barossa Valley being the most famous). The Adelaide Hills is one of the cooler regions in the state, and is also home to more natural and organic winemakers. It sits below Eden valley and Barossa Valley, and just above McLaren Vale. The region of Adelaide Hills has around 90 wineries, with many more growers who supply grapes to these producers. One of the significant qualities about this region for growing grapes is the altitude: most vineyards range from 1,300 - 2,100 ft ASL, creating a relatively cool climate for the area.
THE WINE
This is Fiano, a medium bodied white wine that has a little natural creaminess to it, along with some soft yet fresh acidity. Fiano is a white wine grape most commonly grown in Campania in Southern Italy. Brendan and Laura Carter, winemakers at Unico Zelo, loved the grape so much they brought it to South Australia in the Adelaide Hills where it is able to ripen somewhat slowly with the cooling effect of the Southern Mount Lofty Ranges just to the west. This brings out more lazer like acidity in the wine, and lots of those palette sharpening citrus-zest, wet-rock flavors. The name Alluvium refers to the alluvium quartz clay soils that predominate the area. Pair this with some ceviche if you want to keep on feeling the heat of the sun (even if it’s only in memory). 

 

 

WINE 4

Les Lunes, Cabernet Sauvignon 2021
USA, California, Sonoma Valley

 

THE PEOPLE
California has been home to indigenous people for 12,000 years. That takes us back to about 10,000 BCE. The first grapevines for winemaking were planted only 200-300 years ago. 
Sonoma Valley's original residents were known to us as the Miwok, the Patwin, the Pomo and Wappo. The different tribelets that lived here survived off of Sonoma's abundant wildlife and native plants. Salmon and trout splashed through Sonoma Creek. Nuts came from buckeyes and junipers, and wild grapes and blackberries grew everywhere. The most important source of food was the acorn which came from the great variety of oak trees in northern California.
Although the Miwok, Patwin, Pomo, and Wappo peoples lived as hunter gatherers with no centralized authority, they sometimes clashed with each other.   Life consisted of food preparation, religious observance, art, and family, and they were known as some of the world's best basket makers, creating structures  so well woven they could hold water.  Two hundred years ago, a village called Huchi thrived near Sonoma Creek. It is here in the fall of 1823 that life changed for the Sonoma Valley’s first inhabitants when the Spanish Missionaries arrived. With disease and forced labor, the Native Tribelets struggled to survive and their cultures have almost completely vanished.
THE PLACE
California, Sonoma Valley...this is hallowed ground for California wine. This valley is located between the Mayacamas Mountains to the east, and the Sonoma Mountains to the west. Being in the valley between the protective mountains, along with close proximity to San Pablo Bay to the south, are both factors that provide a cooling influence to the Sonoma Valley. This, in turn, allows grapes to ripen more slowly, allowing for an excellent balance of acidity and ripeness, leading to better quality fruit for making wine.
The Sonoma Valley was recognized as an AVA (American Viticultural Area) in 1982 and has approximately 5,000 acres under vine. Sonoma Valley is the driest area in Sonoma County. This benefits grape growing in that the vines are forced to dig deep to discover water and nutrients, another factor that creates a great concentration of flavors in the grapes.
THE WINE
Les Lunes is a duo winemaking team of Shaunt Oungoulian & Diego Roig, who together manage 8 acres in Sonoma and Napa. Their wines are 100% organic with zero-inputs. The fruit for this particular wine is pulled from 7 different vineyards that were all hand harvested and vinified separately. After crushing, the juice was left to macerate on the skins for about two weeks. The wine from each vineyard was left to age for 9 months in neutral oak before being blended together, and then bottled unfined/unfiltered with a tiny amount of sulfur.
It is not unusual for Cabernet Sauvignon to be blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc, as is the case with this wine. (This is a classic blend found in most Left Bank Bordeaux produced wines.) Leading with Cabernet Sauvignon tends to give wines more tannin, making them suitable for aging. A little bit of Merlot is blended in to add some smooth texture to the wine, and the Cabernet Franc brings a touch of peppery spice.
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Our aim is to give a glimpse into the many roles wine has played throughout history.  All subjects mentioned deserve more attention and research and we encourage you to keep exploring.  We are only here to pop the cork.
Many Thanks, Caravan Wine Shop

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