There is a line from a Don McLean song off his first album that goes: “…how can words express the feel of sunlight in the morning …..” And when I hear (or read) those words, memories and/or feelings are triggered so that I can almost see and feel that light. And so it is with wine. The impact of the initial inhale of a wine’s bouquet or the first taste of its flavors can elicit a same response. A sip of a Moschofilero takes me to a land of sparkling white buildings perched precariously on cliffs above crystal clear, aqua blue waters. And I can imagine the fog rolling in off the Pacific and blanketing the sun-drenched vineyards as I taste of spicy Syrah from cool-climate hills in Sonoma. So, words are just a vehicle for us to use to share our experience. Take a moment when you open these wines. Pour some in a glass, close your eyes, inhale, sip. What comes to mind? Can words describe it?
Modern-day Greece has more than 200 populated islands, and archaeological evidence suggests that winemaking has existed on many of them for at least 4000 years. What makes Greek wine so unique are the more than 300 indigenous grape varieties grown there. The main wine growing regions of contemporary Greece include: the Aegean Islands (Crete, Limnos, Paros, Rhodes, Samos, Santorini), Central Greece (Attic, Epirus, Zitsa, Thessaly, Rapsani, Ankhialos, Ionian Islands, Kefalonia), Macedonia (Amyntaion, Goumenissa, Naoussa), and Peloponnesus (Mantinia, Nemea, Patras).
Located in the southernmost section of continental Greece, the vineyards of the Peloponnese are among the most important of the Greek viticultural regions. Peloponnesus features the most vineyards, the most wineries, and produces the greatest number of registered types of wines wine-producing area of Greece. The Peloponnese has terrain marked by many tight valleys among steep-sloped hillsides and mountains (seven peaks are close to 6,500 feet in height). This hilly landscape, with few open plains, contributes to a number of site-specific mesoclimates. Overall, the region enjoys warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters, with temperatures being moderated by surrounding seas. Prevailing west-to-east winds lead to higher annual rainfall in the west (in Pyrgos, 36 inches) than in the east (Mantinia, 31 inches; Nemea, 16 inches). Most of the soils are sedimentary, often rich in limestone, but poor and thin overall—perfect for cultivating wine grapes. Mantinia is an appellation of roughly 1,500 acres on a high plateau sandwiched among higher peaks. Here the indigenous white grape Moschofilero (mos-co-FEE-le-ro), with a pink skin, flourishes above 1,800 feet. The name Moschofilero translates to ‘the most aromatic’, and the finest Moschofilero wines come from this region. The grape comprises 85% of vineyard plantings, and wines from Mantinia must be at least 85% Moschofilero.
The Troupis family has a long history of work in agronomy where vines, fruit trees, and flowers have been grown and sold from their nursery in Mantinia for decades. Tasos Troupis, supported by his children, has created a production and wine-making facility located in Arcadia, in the heart of the Mantineia plateau in the Fteri region, the core of the PDO viticultural zone. It sits at an altitude of about 700m above sea level. In 2010, the Troupis family took advantage of seven hectares of privately-owned vineyards and started the winery. Over the past 8 years, the winery has evolved into a modern space, with the latest production equipment and a talented team. At Troupis, a strong emphasis has been given to innovative vinification techniques as well as micro-vinification of other Greek varieties. Low yields per hectare, the unique micro-climate, and this winery’s gentle environmental management, all combine to create a superior PDO Mantineia Moschofilero.
Hoof & Lur is an exciting Moschofiliero from Troupis Winery. Created in response to the growing interest in natural wines, this is Moschofilero in a very raw form: fermented with indigenous yeasts, macerated briefly on its skins, and bottled unfiltered with very little sulfur. The main difference between the Hoof & Lur wines– its name has been chosen as a tribute to the ancient Greek god Pan, companion of the nymphs – and the other Troupis wines. Being a ‘blanc de gris’, the 2019 Hoof & Lur Moschofilero’s color has a subtle pinkish hue. The nose has delicious intensity, emitting the unmistakably typical floral notes of Moschofilero, while the palate is crisp and fresh, with impressive acidity and wonderful texture. This is a wine that can be enjoyed on its own as an aperitif, although it will be a perfect companion to summer salads, aromatic vegetarian dishes and light pasta dishes. It pairs beautifully with Greek dishes such as Xifias sto Fourno, baked swordfish steaks marinated in a mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, herbs, garlic, and mustard, or Kalamaria Yemista, with a mixture of rice, garlic, tomato paste, parsley, onion, and wine.
Troupis Hoof & Lur Moschofilero $21.00/bottle, $226.80/case.
The Petaluma Gap is one of California’s youngest American viticultural areas (AVAs), becoming official in 2017, and making it the 17th sub-AVA within Sonoma County.The AVA encompasses land in and around the city of Petaluma and crosses the county line into Marin. It spreads over 200,000 acres from the Pacific Ocean to the San Pablo Bay, with the Petaluma River between. The Petaluma Gap is first and foremost a growing region; the actual wineries to be visited are few and far between. Among the coldest places to grow grapes in Sonoma County, the Petaluma Gap gets blanketed by ocean air that is able to sneak in through a 15-mile-wide gap in the coastal mountain range. Fog dominates in the morning, wind in the afternoon, and fog again at night. Only a small percentage of this expanse is planted to wine grapes (about 4,000 acres), mostly Pinot Noir. Vineyard yields are low and the growing season long. The chilly weather helps grapes ripen slowly, which allows flavors to develop resulting in wines that have intensity, texture, and acidity. They are rich yet balanced, and won’t overwhelm you with high alcohol. Fred Cline started Cline Family Cellars in 1982 in Oakley, California, making his first vintages from original plantings of Mourvedre, Zinfandel, and Carignane, some of which dated back to the 1880's. In 1989, Fred purchased a 350-acre horse farm in Carneros and moved the winery to Sonoma County. As one of the original Rhone Rangers, he began planting varietals that included a number of vineyards dedicated to Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne. In the mid-1990s, Fred purchased another pair of properties partway to Petaluma. At the time, nobody was looking at this area for vineyard development – it was considered too cold. But having had success growing grapes in the chilly Carneros district, Fred planted a dozen different varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Mourvedre, Roussanne, Viognier, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer.
Fred and Nancy’s children are just as passionate about their life’s work. Two of the Cline sisters, Megan and Hilary, have both been involved in the winery since childhood, and decided to launch a project of their own. Together with Cline Cellars winemaker Tom Gendall, they created Gust Wines. The name is meant to convey the atmosphere of the Petaluma Gap, where, like clockwork, morning fog gives way to blustery winds. Gust Syrah is a distinct wine coming from two vineyard sites, Catapult and Diamond Pile, within the Petaluma Gap. The name Catapult refers to a wooden catapult that Hilary’s older brother Ramsey built as a gift for their younger brother Henry, who used it to launch watermelons. The vineyard has 330 acres planted and the catapult has become a landmark there. Diamond Pile vineyard (210 acres) refers to what the sisters jokingly refer to as their dad’s hoarding habits. To Fred, old tractors, fruit crates, steel pipes, etc. represent “diamonds in the rough” and are kept on the site. When Fred first planted the Diamond Pile vineyard, he used old steel pipes that were left on the property as end posts for the vineyard. Catapult and Diamond Pile have a couple of things in common. Both are hilly, with good sunlight penetration into the bunches and canopy as well as increased exposure to wind. The soil in both is Sonoma Mountain series deep clay loam, which requires minimal irrigation but applies the right amount of stress, forcing the vines to work harder and confer low yields, long hang-times, and mineral-rich wines. The vineyards also have differences. Nestled among low-lying, oak-covered hills, Catapult is more sheltered and slightly warmer. Less shielded and farther northwest, Diamond Pile gets more exposure to cool marine air. Taking inspiration from the Northern Rhone and the cool, long growing season of the Petaluma Gap, the 2017 Gust Syrah is a wine that has power, depth, and elegance. The fruit was hand-harvested and brought into the winery where it was completely destemmed. The Syrah was fermented in closed-top fermenters, where the juice went through fermentation (5% whole cluster) with native yeasts. It was then pressed off its skins after two weeks and matured in Francois Freres, Ermitage, and Tonnelliere barrels. The wine was aged on 50% new oak for 12 months to allow the tannin to stand up to the natural acidity. Only 352 cases were produced. The Gust Syrah has intricate flavors of black pepper intermingled with black and blue fruit. With ample tannin, this wine has a silky texture with beautiful concentration, tension, and length. Try it with braised beef cheeks, grilled steak or sausages, roasted pork, lamb chops, mushroom soup, or roasted root vegetables with polenta and Gorgonzola.
Gust Syrah is $55.00/bottle; club members can call us for special pricing.