December Domestic Wine: NV M. Lawrence ‘US’ Brut, Leelanau, MICHIGAN

L. Mawby has produced estate grown and bottled Leelanau Peninsula wines since their first crush in the fall of 1978. Now they make entirely methode champenoise and cuve close method sparkling wines. Many wines are from their estate vineyards; however, they are producing wines from grapes purchased from other vineyards as well. Their current annual production is less than 8000 cases: this modest volume allows them the pleasure of winemaking in the style they enjoy – small lots made with minimal handling.

All L. Mawby sparkling wines are made using the methode champenoise, and are aged in the bottle before  disgorging, with many cuvees being given 3 or more years of tirage aging. Their M. Lawrence sparkling wines are produced in the cuve close method, are given less aging, and are less costly than the method champenoise sparkling wines.

Methods of Producing Sparkling Wine and their Relation to M. Lawrence:   Most sparkling wines go through two fermentations: one to turn the grape juice into still wine without bubbles (that’s called a base wine) and a subsequent one to turn the base wine into bubbly wine. The winemaker instigates the second fermentation by adding yeasts and sugar to the base wine. The added yeasts convert the added sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2) bubbles. When yeasts convert sugar into alcohol, carbon dioxide is a natural by-product. If fermentation takes place in a closed container, that prevents this carbon dioxide from escaping into the air. With nowhere else to go, the CO2 becomes trapped in the wine in the form of bubbles.

Beginning with the second fermentation, the longer and slower the winemaking process, the more complex the sparkling wine will be. Some sparkling wines are ten years in the making; others are produced in only a few months. Although many variations exist, most sparkling wines are produced in one of two ways: through second fermentation in a tank (like the M. Lawrence ‘US’), or through second fermentation in a bottle. The quickest, most efficient way of making a sparkling wine involves conducting the second fermentation in large, closed, pressurized tanks. This method is called the tank method or cuve close (meaning closed tank in French), or charmat method (after a Frenchman named Eugene Charmat, who championed this process).

M. Lawrence ‘US’ Brut is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes that are hand-picked and carefully whole-cluster pressed. The juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks, then blended with reserve wines and fermented a second time in a closed tank [the cuve close method]. The wine is then filtered, dosaged, and bottled.

Varietal:  Pinot Noir, Chardonnay                                    

Alcohol:  11.0% by volume

Tasting Notes:  Pale yellow gold… complex fruit aromas… yeasty accents… fruity… crisp style.

Food Pairings:  Sparkling wine is one of the most fun wines to pair with so many different kinds of food. Drink this wine with scrambled eggs, popcorn, potato chips, cheese, pasta, or sushi!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts:  Lively, electric, and really fun! Great wine for the holidays! I’m a bubbly kind of a person, and this is right up my alley!”-JL

December Imported Wine: 2011 La Quercia Aglianico IGT, Puglia, ITALY

Winemaker Antonio Lamona is a “true blue,” grizzled farmer-type, who is both utterly likeable and totally invested in his wines. Although his father also grew grapes, Antonio is the first in the family to bottle his own and, beginning in the late sixties, he began cultivating vines that are entirely organic. As Antonio says, “we are very proud to make organic wines–we believe this is the way to obtain the highest quality while also respecting nature and human health.” All grapes are hand-picked and pressed within two hours of harvest. Located on a windy hillside with a vista of the Adriatic Sea, Antonio’s farm is entirely self-sustaining: they produce their own salami, bread, vegetables, olive oil, and cheese.

La Quercia is an uncertified organic estate, and this wine, harvested from a single cru owned by the family in Puglia, really delivers. True, you won’t find a “discoteca” within a hundred miles of the place, but in terms of sheer, natural beauty and down-to-earth hospitality, there’s no better place to see.

History of Aglianico and its Relation to La Quercia:  Aglianico, pronounced roughly “ahl-YAH-nee-koe” is a black grape grown in the Basilicata and Campania regions of Italy. The vine originated in Greece and was brought to the south of Italy by Greek settlers. The name may be a corruption of vitis hellenica, Latin for “Greek vine.  Another etymology posits a corruption of Apulianicum, the Latin name for the whole of southern Italy in the time of ancient Rome. During this period, it was the principal grape of the famous Falernian wine, the Roman equivalent of a first-growth wine today.

A ‘La Quercia’ is a majestic oak tree that grows in southern Italy. From Antonio’s single vineyard site in southern Italy, he offers this inspired Aglianico. This wine represents one of Italy’s most noble grape varietals. Above all, Antonio believes in respecting the earth: “I want to make wines that please the body and the spirit.”

Pronounciation:  La Quercia (la-KWIR-cha) 

Varietal:  100% Aglianico 

Alcohol:  13.0% by volume

Tasting Notes:  From the master of Montepulciano, Antonio Lamona delivers his signature combination of power and finesse with one of the most difficult varietals of all: Aglianico. With the classic ripe plum and white pepper notes that this Noble varietal is known for, it is a rare opportunity to taste Aglianico in a fresh, immediate style, that deftly manages the soft tannins. Delightful for everyday enjoyment! 

Food Pairings:  Perfect with pomodoro pasta or meat off the grill! Also serve with seared Ahi tuna with plum sauce and grilled polenta cakes-an ideal pairing.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts:   “Rich and loaded with flavor. Terroir based wine that has flavors of cedar, tobacco, and berries, with a long and lingering finish.”-JL